another weekend, another trip to New Orleans

It’s been noted that I’m in New Orleans so much that I might as well live there, but I like the country, too. I love visiting cities, I don’t necessarily want to be in them 24-7.

Anyway. Saturday was the Piety Street Holiday Market, and a friend of mine in the New Orleans Photo Alliance had a booth, so I decided to go. They have the market every 3rd weekend in the Old Ironworks in Bywater; there are 2 in December and I think they have extra vendors as well. It’s a combination craft fair/flea market, and I think there’s sometimes live music. And of course food, because this is New Orleans we’re talking about.

christmas cactus, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I love Bywater. It’s the Berkeley (or Red Hook) of New Orleans. If I WAS going to live in the city, I’d want to live either there or in Marigny.

I just went for something to do–I’m done with my shopping anyway–but actually I was really surprised with the quality of the stuff being sold.

old checks, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

My friend was selling, among other things, “paper ephemera”: old checks and bills. These are from 1895, 1899, and 1907. People had such cool handwriting back then, all spidery and curlicued.

I also bought a mixed-paper journal made from an old French-language children’s book (I’m always meaning to do something like that myself, I have enough paper craft supplies), and a couple of 4×6 matted prints from a local artist. (One for me, one for a friend.)

nola doorway (filter), originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

The one I’m keeping is a photo of a doorway on Rue Dauphine. Clearly, I like photos of doorways in New Orleans. I take dozens of them.

snowballs, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I also had a key lime snowball. Snowballs are a southern Louisiana thing, and they are miles better than a grainy, gritty snowcone. They’re more like Hawaiian shaved ice, with a very fine, snow-like texture. Lots of places are seasonal, opening around either Mardi Gras or Easter and closing around the time the clocks are set back. But some places are open year-round.

rooster graffiti, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

There was a really cool mural on the outside of the Old Ironworks.

saint lucy, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Afterward, since I was in the neighborhood already, I drove to St. Roch to take some photos of that delightfully morbid body part chapel with my Z2300. I also realized that last time I neglected to take any photos of the statue of St. Lucy. Yes, those are eyeballs on a tray.

Then I drove over to Magazine Street. There’s a stationery store called Scriptura that a friend told me about, I bought some stationery and a pocket notebook and replenished my NOLA postcard stash for Afterwards I went to 2 galleries on the same street to see a couple of different photo exhibits that opened as part of PhotoNOLA.

I really enjoyed the Contemporary Antiques exhibit at the Octavia Art Gallery. It was curated by Frank Relle, but a lot of the photographers are amateurs, and most of their photos were taken with cell phones. It’s fun to see the kinds of things that catches other people’s eyes, and the sheer amount of photos–blown up to 6×6 (I think, I didn’t measure them), with identical white mattes and mounted floor-to-ceiling–was dizzying. I’m an old school film photographer, but I like that literally everyone carries around a camera with them on their phone now. I think it encourages people to pay attention to their surroundings, to look for beauty and fascination in the mundane, and I think it probably teaches them things like composition and framing without their even knowing.

I also went to the Leslie Addison and George Yerger exhibit at the Cole Pratt Gallery. I’ve been interested in these artists since shortly after I moved to Louisiana and they were featured in an issue of Louisiana Life. They use plastic cameras (Holgas, mostly) like myself. In a way they encouraged me to start taking my own work more seriously, because I looked at their photos and thought “Hell, I could do that. I DO do that.”

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peace on earth, good will toward men, and maybe an xbox

So now I can talk about all the awesome presents I bought everyone:

Granny: There isn’t much a 92-year-old woman really wants or needs. I got her a jar of soaps that look and smell like gardenia petals; each soap is good for one handwashing, it lathers up and washes away. She loves scented things, and this will be something that she’ll enjoy but will get consumed.

Phil: I bought him a scrimshaw box made of water buffalo bone. He always admired scrimshaw, and he needs something to put his watch and rings in so they aren’t just rolling around loose in his night table drawer.

Mom: You know those oval paper cups with the fluted edges that they serve hot dogs in when you get them at a fair or from a street vendor? I got her a set of 5 stoneware dishes that look like that. Mom likes the occasional chili dog, and you can’t go wrong giving her any kind of dishes.

Jamie: I got her a bamboo serving tray that’s got a slate inset and comes with chalk. So when you serve cheese or whatever on it, you can write the name underneath. It’s a good size, it will hold at least 2 or 3 cheeses or appetizers. And it matches her bamboo floors!

Rian: Rian loves jigsaw puzzles, so I got him one of those 3D puzzles of the New York City skyline. What’s cool is it has buildings from different eras, so you can build the 1812 skyline, then remove some of the buildings and put new ones it and re-create the skyline all the way up to next year (it includes the Freedom Tower, which hasn’t been built yet).

David: David loves cookbooks (we all do; Mom, Rian, David, Jamie and I all got cookbooks for Christmas) and a few weeks ago he was saying how he thought Persian food had a real interesting flavor profile, how it blends sweet with savory. So I searched on Amazon and found him an introductory Persian cookbook.

Rian got me the Real Simple cookbook, Dinner Tonight: Done!. Uncle Larry got me The Atheist Manifesto and a gift card from Barnes & Noble (already spent that on a fountain pen!). Jamie and Greg of course got me the trip I took to Los Angeles last month and seeing The Cure at the Pantages. Mom and Phil got me season 5 of Dexter, The Girl Who Played With Fire (the novel, I already have the DVD), some instant film, a sealing wax set, some stationery, perfume (Tom Ford’s Violet Blonde), gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Old Navy (already spent on capris and a couple of graphic tees), and they renewed my subscription to Real Simple magazine.

My culinary contributions thus far have been cake balls, which David says has ruined cake for him. You make a cake, just a sheet cake from a box mix. And you let it cool, preferably overnight. Then you crumble it up, mix it with a can of frosting and form it into balls, about rounded tablespoon size. Freeze them for at least a couple of hours, then melt some chocolate in a double boiler and dip the balls (heh) in it. Set them on wax paper or aluminum foil, and by the time the chocolate hardens the cake inside will be thawed. I made a butter pecan cake with chocolate frosting and semi-sweet chocolate, and a lemon cake with lemon frosting and white chocolate. That one is TITS.

And yesterday afternoon I baked a brie. I actually got the recipe from a magazine ad for Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, which any honest professional chef will tell you is preferable to making your own. It tastes exactly the same and saves you hours of prep. Anyway, you thaw a sheet, roll it out on a floured surface, and cut off the corners. Mix chopped dried cherries (soften them in warm water first), toasted pecans, honey, rosemary, and a tiny pinch of salt. Put it in the middle of the sheet, put a large round brie on top (and when you’re baking brie, it doesn’t have to be a super expensive gourmet one), and pull the edges of the pastry sheet up. Flip it over onto a baking sheet, brush it all over with egg and a little water, and I usually decorate it with little cut outs of pastry from the corners you cut off. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and cool for at least a half hour. I don’t put this on crackers, I just cut little wedges and serve it that way. It’s pretty and tastes like a million bucks, but it’s super easy to make.

So, what did Santa bring YOU?

mushroom & gruyère tarts

(This isn’t my photo, because the one I took was blurry. I am so much better with film than digital.)

I found this recipe in the January issue of Real Simple. I love that magazine. Mushrooms are a “superfood” everyone should eat more of, especially women: they may regulate estrogen levels and help prevent breast cancer. I used baby bellas, which I like in a meatless meal because they are particularly hearty and filling. I doubled the recipe, because why the hell not and there are 2 sheets of puff pastry per box anyway.

Trader Joe’s used to have this UH-MAZING frozen savory tart: ham, gruyère, and caramelized onions. I used to buy one nearly every Friday night and have half of it with a salad for dinner and the other half for lunch on either Saturday or Sunday. I may try to recreate it with puff pastry.

baby porcupines

I know this is a baby hedgehog. I don't care. Comments pointing this out will not be approved. Fuck off.

No, not that kind of baby porcupine. The kind you eat. Although I suppose you could eat this kind, but that would be sad. And kinda gross.

Baby porcupines are meatballs rolled in uncooked rice and simmered in tomato soup. That cooks the rice, and the juices of the meat seep out and make tomato gravy. I am not a huge rice and gravy fan; I’ll eat it if you put it in front of me, but I don’t get the general Cajun obsession with it. Meh. But tomato gravy, I have to admit, is pretty yummy.

Mix 1 lb. of ground beef with half a finely chopped onion, a cup of bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and salt and pepper to taste. (The soup has salt in it, so go easy on the salt you add to the meatballs.) Make them into generously sized meatballs and flatten slightly. Roll in raw rice.

Bring a can of tomato soup and 2 cups of boiling water to a simmer in a Dutch oven, then put in the meatballs. The soup should just cover them, if it doesn’t add more boiling water. Cover and simmer for about an hour.

And that’s it! Very easy, very tasty, just add something green to your plate and you have a well-balanced simple meal. I made this for my grandmother last Sunday. Her brother used to make them when they were kids; judging by how quiet she was while she was eating, I think she enjoyed it.

You could probably use ground turkey if you’d rather.

what happens when a happy hippo meets a hungry, hungry hippo?

Today was the first day in nearly 5 months where, when I left the building at noon to move my car so I wasn’t blocking anyone in, I didn’t want to drop dead from the heat and humidity. It was actually… pleasant. And when I left the house this morning it was… chilly. AND! I only used my a/c at about 1/2 power on the way to work. *GASP*

We may have another hot flash before it leaves town for good, but summer’s ugly grasping claws finally seem to be loosening its deathgrip.

I made supper (we eat breakfast, dinner, and supper in Louisiana) for my grandmother last night* and didn’t feel like planning a bento on top of that, and Rouses was having a 2 for $5 sale on those Stouffer’s frozen subs, so I just bought a bunch of them for my lunches this week. But I also have a Happy Hippo milk & cocoa creme biscuit. I bought a box at World Market a while back. THEY ARE AWESOME AND YOU ARE JELLUS

*I made my famous maple-mustard chicken, the recipe of which I’ve never posted because I always, ALWAYS forget to take a photo of it. I forgot last night too, so fuck it, here’s the recipe:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Put 1.5-2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs in a single layer in a glass oven-proof casserole dish, season with salt & pepper to taste.
Mix 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (ACTUAL maple syrup, not sugary fake crap like Log Cabin), and 1 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar. Pour over chicken, turning pieces once to thoroughly coat, and cook for 20-25 minutes.
A good trick, which I almost always forget, is to line the dish with aluminum foil so you don’t spend the next week scraping burnt maple sugar off the casserole dish.
From the I ❤ Trader Joe’s Cookbook

I also made my cheddar garlic biscuits, even though Mom says Granny “isn’t a bread person”, but I think she liked them. Mom said Grandpa would have loved them; “But he thought anything you did was ***~~WONDERFUL~~***.” I miss Grandpa. Everyone should have one person who thinks everything they do is ***~~WONDERFUL~~***.

A show I forgot to mention in my quick capsule review of the 2010-2011 teevee season is AMC’s Rubicon. It’s sort of like Three Days of the Condor, if that movie moved at a glacial pace. And that’s not a bad thing, the slow pace really makes you sit up and think about what you’re seeing; as opposed to 24-style *car bombs* *people getting tortured* *hero yelling all manly WE HAVE TO FIND THE BOMB!!!* that totally numbs your brain after half an episode.

I am also looking forward to AMC’s The Walking Dead, which premieres on Halloween. Zombies + Lennie James + the director of Shawshank Redemption (okay so he also directed The Green Mile, I DON’T CARE LIFETIME PASS FOR SR Y’ALL) = me, glued to the TV.

Also, this season of Hoarders has been an absolutely horrifying trainwreck, if the train was filled with cat poo and collided with a mountain of garbage bags filled with human poo.

i am seriously behind on recipe postings

Dijon salmon cakes with couscous. I love salmon but it gets boring and I’m always looking for new ways to make it.

Chicken breasts stuffed with dill havarti and double tomato crostini. All 3 of these recipes came from Real Simple magazine, which is becoming one of my favorite current publications.

Peach cobbler. My first time making this iconic southern dessert, and it was way easier than pie. In fact, I’m convinced cobbler was invented by someone who got sick of fussing with pie crust.

how YOU doin’?

fish eggs, fish eggs, roly-poly fish eggs

Saturday has become miscellaneous errand day since I’m working again. Today I went to the library to renew Hearts in Atlantis — working also means less time to read — and turn in Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenét and the City of Boulder. That one was interesting, because Lawrence Schiller wasn’t trying to sell his personal pet theory of the murder, just presenting the facts. Which means I still have no fucking clue who killed JonBenét Ramsey. I guess it will never be solved. If it was Patsy Ramsey (there is no single case on record of a mother garrotting her child, ever), she’s already dead.

I also checked out an awesome commemorative edition of pretty much every story H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote, it’s called (of course) The Necronomicon and has a leather cover with a be-tentacled Cthulhu stamped in silver. The librarian gave me the hairy eyeball, because everyone who works at that library is Super Catholic and also dumber than a sack of hair. The Necronomicon isn’t a real thing, people! It’s just a word that Lovecraft made up and that every writer/filmmaker has been ripping off since in homage!!

What was funny is there was a deeply weird poster hanging right behind her. It was your standard “Make waves!” slogan, exorting kids to read during their summer vacay; but the illustration was this like, robed, fiercesome Ram Wizard God, with cryptic symbols all over his enourmous curly horns and blank black eyes, standing upright and being pulled through a stormy ocean by tethered killer whales. Which looked like tadpoles, so he was also GIANT. I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING, YOU GUYS. Oh man, I wanted to take a cell cam photo so bad, but my battery was dead! Maybe I’ll try again the next time I’m there; if some parent (or nun) doesn’t wig out, it will probably be hanging all summer.

Then after that I went to Lafayette. I went to S&P Oriental Grocery again — that name used to make me wince, then I remembered it’s not politically incorrect to refer to things as “Oriental”, just people. This time I found lychee jellies, wasabi furikake, and dashi soup stock. Which means I can make chawan mushi.

Then I went to Target for new sunglasses, where I also got a new pea soup green purse, because it was on clearance for $17.48, and pea soup green is a color sadly lacking in my wardrobe.

THEN I went to Rouses for bento stuff. They not only have tobiko, they have the kind DYED GREEN WITH WASABI WHAT. They also had the black squid ink tobiko, but I don’t care for that. Squid ink has a taste like white paper to me. It’s faint but unpleasant. I also got pickled baby carrots, because a true Japanese bento always has a pickle course. I’m going to make mini sushi rolls for my next one. It will be awesome.

The ‘rents are going to some party in Breaux Bridge later this afternoon. I was invited and probably would have gone, but it’s OUTSIDE. NO THANK YOU. So instead I’m going to settle down with a 6-pack of Honey Moon and watch On Demand every episode of this season of Leverage. I watched the season premiere this morning and realized how much I missed it when Eliot “the Hitter” paused in the middle of beating the shit out of a crooked prison guard, growled “Look at me”, then continued to beat the shit out him. Oh, Christian Kane. I’ve almost forgotten you played Lindsey “Evil Hand!” McDonald way back when on Angel.

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